Masterchef India judge Ranveer Brar shares secrets from his kitchen
The Punjabi chef talks about what it takes to be a good chef, the best dish he’s tasted, and why less is always more when it comes to cooking
When it comes to food, it is all about asking the right questions believes celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, who has been signed on as the ambassador for three new food shows – Supermarket Secrets, Food Detectives and Food Factory Supersized — premiering on Sony BBC Earth this week. Not surprising, since Brar, apart from being a celebrated chef, has donned multiple television roles as host on shows like The Great Indian Rasoi and as a judge on Masterchef India. The anthology of shows on Sony BBC, titled Secrets Behind Food, is being backed by Brar, who is as passionate about the process of getting the right ingredients from the farms to the supermarkets, and to the kitchens, as he is about the process of cooking with these ingredients, spices and flavours. Ask him what was one big secret that was revealed to him when he began his culinary journey and the Lucknow-based chef says, “The ability to control cooking comes from the ability to control time and temperature. You realise this when you start breaking down and figuring out why some people cook better than others. For example, when you’re cooking dum style it is all about time and temperature. The lid is closed. You don’t know what is going on inside. All you can do is control the time and temperature that you are giving.”
While Supermarket Secrets will go behind the scenes with the biggest supermarket chains to find out how they source, make and move the foods that we all buy, Food Factory Supersized, set in a competition format, challenges special guests to make food that is normally sold in supermarkets abroad. But Brar’s favourite is The Food Detectives, where a team of scientists, journalists and chefs meet industry experts and participate in immersive experiments to find definitive answers to anything and everything food related. “These shows answer some questions you might have had, or maybe sometimes even make you think — ‘Oh why didn’t I ask that question.’ It is about answering questions in a logical, scientific, explicable way that we would otherwise not consider,” says Brar.
Chef on the move
The 40-year-old Punjabi, whose love for food began with Lucknowi cuisine, most specifically kebabs, which he considers his speciality, believes that cooking, at the end of the day, is a sum total of basics. Anyone who knows the basics of cooking can be a great chef. “It is obvious. Yet people seem to think that people like us are some kind of magicians, and we have a secret spice in our pocket that we add to our food to make it tasty. Cooking is not just about hacks and shortcuts and these secrets. It is about getting the basics right,” explains the chef, who loves to travel.
Less is more
He cites his experience of eating ker sangri (a Rajasthani vegetarian dish), in a small village called Khejdi near Jodhpur, as the best meal he has had on all his travels. “This local woman used just basic spices like salt, turmeric and chilli to make the sangri, and she cooked it on a choola (traditional earthen stove). That is when I realised that we think we are the best because we buy all this expensive equipment, and use fancy ingredients. But at the end of the day, we are only complicating our lives and that of others, by using more than what is required in a dish,” he elaborates, stressing that less is always more when it comes to cooking. “You learn this with experience. The first instinct is to always put everything you know into a dish. The process of realising the value of using fewer ingredients is gradual. And when you learn that, you want to put it out there as much as you can.”